Why isn't hydrogen in regular use?
- The major drawback to using hydrogen is that it has a very low storage density. A storage tank would have to be 3000 times larger in order to store enough hydrogen gas at atmospheric pressure to drive a car the same distance as one which runs on gasoline.
- Hydrogen is more expensive than other energy sources such as coal, oil and natural gas.
Why do we need research?
- To reduce the cost of hydrogen production;
- To solve hydrogen storage problems;
- In the long term to integrate renewable energy sources (RES) into hydrogen fuel production.
Why is EU support necessary?
- So that Europe can gain real economic benefit from developing and exploiting the technologies which make a significant contribution to improving the environment.
- To make the EU hydrogen technology industry, which is currently lagging behind the US, more competitive. Increased EU research support linked to new policies on the use of RES are needed so that EU hydrogen technology can compete with the US.
- There should be a pan-European approach to bring together the different Member States' strengths and capabilities and to ensure that national programmes complement EU Framework programmes. A common EU approach is also needed to standardise the technology.
- Research in this field will be highly strategic to enable Europe to compete in a changing world market.
Bottlenecks and barriers
What issues need to be addressed?
- The development of highly-efficient combustion systems which use hydrogen; for example, small, medium and large turbines for electricity production and co-generation;
- Further research on electrochemical issues and hydrogen storage;
- More research into hydrogen transportation and storage to make the current technologies more convenient and economic.
What are the major technical barriers to be overcome?
Safety and storage:
- Research needs to be carried out to make hydrogen safe when it is used as a fuel. It is highly flammable and has a high explosive range in air. However, it also diffuses extremely rapidly and a hydrogen fire does not radiate large amounts of heat.
- More research is needed into hydrogen storage so that it is possible to have safe on-board storage in quantities that would make fuel cell vehicles viable.
What are the major non-technical barriers to be overcome?
- Lack of public awareness;
- Lack of harmonised standards and codes;
- Lack of legal and financial incentives such as the internalisation of external costs;
- Increased social and economic knowledge of changing industrial structures;
- The identification of human resource requirements and more stimulation of scientific training.
What are the research priorities?
- Producing clean, cost-effective hydrogen from fossil fuels;
- Producing cost-effective hydrogen by electrolysis from renewable and nuclear energy;
- Setting up a hydrogen infrastructure which incorporates transport, distribution, storage and use.
How can the cost of hydrogen be reduced?
EU research will study different methods of reducing the cost of hydrogen technology to make it competitive with conventional fuels:
- In the medium term, hydrogen from natural gas is likely to be most cost-effective, but in order to achieve this, it will have to be much cheaper to produce. The drawback of CO2 emission will be addressed by CO2 capture and underground storage;
- Because hydrogen can be produced from water by electrolysis, cheap hydropower in Greenland or Iceland could be used for this;
- By investigating nuclear power as a possible source of producing hydrogen, either by providing electricity for water electrolysis or by supplying heat at very high temperatures for decomposing water thermo-chemically;
- By further investigation into hydrogen's transportation, distribution and storage.